When a bridegroom and several guests are murdered in front of him, an intrepid sleuth goes into action.
February 1768: John Rawlings, apothecary of Shug Lane, Piccadilly, has finally succeeded in carbonating water. His friends, including the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding, all encourage him to bottle his new invention and sell it commercially. First, however, Rawlings must hurry off to Devon to be with his passionate, opinionated older lover, the Marchesa Elizabeth di Lorenzi, who’s about to bear his child. Once his friends help him find a down-on-her-luck lady capable of starting up the new business, he dashes off to discover Elizabeth and her newborn twin boys at the home of her friend Lady Sidmouth. Lady Sidmouth’s cousin, snippy Miranda Tremayne, is engaged to marry the Earl of St. Austell, a suitor 52 years her senior with a dreadful reputation. Since he cannot convince Elizabeth to leave her home and his daughter Rose is about to leave for school, Rawlings shuttles back and forth between Devon and London. Before she departs, Rose, who is psychic, warns him that if he sees two old ladies dressed in brown, he must fall to the floor. Sure enough, at the wedding of Miranda and the Earl, two ladies dressed in brown enter. They shoot and kill the Earl and two other people. It’s obvious that they were men dressed as old women, but nothing else about the case seems straightforward. Luckily, a fully recovered Elizabeth comes to Rawlings’ aid as they work to unravel the crime.
The latest in Lake’s long-running series (Death and the Black Pyramid, 2009, etc.) continues to mix period detail and a sound mystery with a hint of romance.